A West Virginia man will spend eight months in confinement for helping his wife fake her own death. Rodney Wheeler called 911 on May 31, 2020, to report that his wife had fallen from a steep cliff some 1,400 feet above West Virginia's New River. After days of searching, authorities found Julie Wheeler, 44, who was to be sentenced for federal health care fraud two weeks later, hiding in a closet in her Beaver home. Authorities said the couple planned to go into hiding. For his role in the scheme—which involved planting a shoe and cellphone at the base of the cliff—Rodney Wheeler, 48, was sentenced Monday to two months in federal prison, to be followed by six months of home confinement, and three years of supervised release, per the Washington Post. He faced up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice during a hearing in January.
Rodney Wheeler "repeatedly gave false statements to state and federal investigators," according to the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of W.Va. It notes he also posted false information on Facebook, saying he was "heartbroken and lost" but "holding out hope" that his wife would be found safe, per People. "Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers," he added. Helicopters, rappelling experts, and hundreds of volunteers took part in the search before state troopers found Julie Wheeler in her closet. Julie Wheeler, the owner of a home health care business, was sentenced in February to one year and one day behind bars for faking her death, to be served after a 42-month sentence for overbilling a Veterans Affairs program for spina bifida care, handed down in July. She was ordered to pay almost $290,000 in restitution and, like her husband, faces three years of supervised release. (Read more faked death stories.)